Earlier this week I went on a solo, self-directed, three-day writing retreat at a guest cottage, Casita Azul, in Grand Coteau, LA. I rarely have alone time much less extended alone time and I was ready for intensive solitude.
I married at 20 and went straight from my parent’s home to my own with my husband—with no real attempt at setting up my own pad. In the 22 years of being married I might have spent a combined three or four weeks apart (over one day) from my husband in all those years—two weeklong trips to NYC, one extended weekend in Austin, and maybe a weekend or two in New Orleans when Miriam was alive. The longest time I was “on my own” was a six-week university-sponsored group trip to Europe in 1986—25 years ago this summer. I was 17.
There have been some upheavals in my family and a fair bit of chaos since the beginning of the year—major life changes, illness, flared tempers and tears. It was time to break the negative cycle, just for a bit. My family fully supported my going on this retreat. My mom surprised me the day I left with a check to cover the costs. She was really happy for me to have this opportunity and wanted to ease the burden.
I am having “MULTIPLE EPIPHANIES”
the writing life/my path
I am celebrating all.
I packed supplies for two nights/almost three days (food, music, books, laptop, paper, pen, and camera) and “checked out” from my life obligations. I had one rule. It was cool if I called you (like to say goodnight) or text you once or twice but it was not cool for anyone in my family or close circle of friends (who knew what I was doing) to initiate contact with me unless there was an emergency. A text would be less intrusive than a phone call (or an unexpected visit!) and just about everyone was cool about it. I thought that by letting people know I was going on a retreat that rule needn’t have been posted.
“Retreat” kind of seems self-explanatory.
When I first arrived I was able to transport my stuff in the Casita quickly and the first thing I did was to “move in.” I was ritualistic about it. I put all of the food in the fridge or neatly on the table. I plugged in the computer (there was Internet available but I did not use it) set up my books, popped a CD in the stereo (so cool—great acoustics in the Casita!) unpacked my clothing. Then I made a plate of cheese and fruit and sat back to slowly take in the place (which is very cute and comfy—I highly recommend a stay there.) I “acclimated” to the Casita and let my SELF expand into its space. I might have had one flashing thought that I would be at a loss with all the alone time I would have, but I intended to “do exactly what I felt like doing” without misgivings. Of course I am safe and not a delinquent so nothing bad was going to happen! I certainly did not trash the place!! I did dance, write, sing, sleep, eat, drink and write and sleep some more.
I left the laptop in standby mode, that way anytime I felt like writing I could just sit down and write. I also kept journals handy and pens. I set a timer for 5-10 minutes for each “sit down session” and over the whole time I was on the retreat I produced 21 different burst of free-writing—which I plan to mine for poetry. I did not set a strict agenda other than to read, write, and be alone, sleep if I needed to, take a country drive, write with pen on paper, eat well and take over the whole bed. I stuck to that plan. I thought I might have a good cry but that didn’t happen so I guess I didn’t need to—but if I had that would have been OK!
I listened to music—Radiohead, PJ Harvey, Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, Kate Bush, Keane, Portishead, Joni Mitchell, some mix CDs that flowed into this groove and the particular playlist was really great for my mood. I also brought a relaxation CD which is hypnosis/guided meditation.
It rained so much—perfect for my mood. I wanted to be as secluded as possible. Some people go to tops of mountains to have a peak experience. I went to Grand Coteau, LA, thirty minutes from my home. A great time was had celebrating my growth as an artist, new realizations of myself as woman-human at mid-life, the surge of confidence I am experiencing, and the many new relationship connections I’ve made which feel very promising. I took pleasure in all of these things. Most importantly, I was joyful in the spiritual communion with what is Essential with a capital E through which we can all be replenished.